Be prepared if the worst happens 

December 5, 2016

What do musical legends Jimmy Hendrix, James Brown, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson have in common? They died either without having made a will or left a legally ambiguous one which has led to acrimonious battles with the relevant families.

Worryingly, in the UK, according to Citizens Advice, the number of those dying without a will has reportedly doubled over the past five years and a survey by Investec Wealth shows that over two thirds of UK adults do not have a will. Making a will is often misconceived as not being necessary, but many problems can be encountered when a will is not made.

What will happen to my assets if I die without making a will?

In the absence of making a will, if an invalid will has been made, or, if some action has been taken to inadvertently revoke a previously made will, the rules of intestacy apply.

Under the rules of intestacy, those who are entitled to inherit the estate are not always the same persons as those the person making the will intended. Indeed, the most unpalatable outcome of the rules of intestacy applying is that distant relatives of the deceased could inherit their estate over loved ones such as partners and friends.

If you die without leaving a will, therefore, some or all of your loved ones could be left without any rights to inherit anything. Those who would not be entitled to inherit include unmarried partners and partners who have not registered a civil partnership, together with carers, friends or relations by marriage.

There are numerous pitfalls in dying without a will; most married couples, for example, would desire that their estate is left to one another and believe that if they die without making a will, everything would pass to the surviving spouse. However, for those who are married with children, there is a cap of £250,000 which can be received by the surviving spouse with the remainder of their assets being split equally into two halves. The spouse or civil partner takes one half and the children (or their children in their absence i.e. their grandchildren) take the other half.

There can also be what is known as a partial intestacy which occurs when someone dies leaving a valid will but the will does not dispose of all of their assets. It is always, therefore, best to seek professional advice, rather than leaving these things to chance.

What are the main reasons for people not making wills?

Bad luck is often cited as the reason stopping people making a will. People are also said to be put off making a will because they don’t feel they have anything that’s worthy of making one, or perhaps it hasn’t occurred to them that they need to make a will at all.

But the making of a will is by no means a morbid or unlucky process. It is in fact an exercise to bring peace of mind to a person and their loved ones both in life and in death.

At Hay & Kilner, we can assist you with making a will for the first time or, if you already have a will, we can help you to review it. We recommend that wills are reviewed periodically and upon any major circumstantial change.

Hay & Kilner
To enquire about the process of making or reviewing a will, contact Alison Hall, partner and head of private client at Hay & Kilner on 0191 232 8345 or

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